Leaving without knowing the language

Leaving without knowing the language

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After receiving the amazing news that you are going on Erasmus and the incredible feels and enthusiasm running all over your body it comes the time to figure out two important topics: the first one is “How to search for a house” and the second one of course “How will I manage with a new language?”.

In this article I will give a try to give you some useful tips you might need to answer to the last question.C

Communication basics

First, try to learn a few words ahead of time, like please, thank you, hello, where is..?

A phrasebook would be really helpful, but remember that you will not necessarily understand the response you get.

I would definitely suggest to you all to download the app Duolingo, which is the best one ever to learn languages and helped me a lot in improving my Polish, and not only.

Erasmus Traveller listens to music
photo by @amelie_hnm

Remember that English is the universal language of travel. Sometimes signs at tourist attractions are even written in both the local language and English. If you are going to live in a city that is used to dealing with tourists, you will find locals who speak at least a few basic words of English. But when you speak to them, remember to speak slowly and clearly (NOT louder) and use simple vocabulary.

A big part of communication is in body language

Hand gestures and miming work well. When trying to order food, if you can’t tell what kind of meat something is, moo like a cow, flap your arms like a chicken, swim like a fish. Don’t worry about looking silly, you will be understood and the person selling the food will probably be even more friendly to you.

Someone else has been there before you

Read witnesses of Dotters who has been there before you on our blog: you will get some informations, advices and you will have the possibility to chat with former Erasmus and ask directly to them! Search through the questions to see what people are saying about how easy it was to get around without knowing the local language.

If someone else traveled there and figured out a way around the language differences, you can do it too. Just keep telling yourself that, and once you get there, you’ll believe it. Afterwards, you’ll feel great that you met a challenge head on and succeeded. It’s one of the many reasons why I love to experience new cultures and live in different countries.

It might seem impossible to travel to a country with a different language and sometimes a completely different alphabet, but remember how much of the world learns English. Remember that at the beginning simple hand gestures, miming, drawing, and pointing go a long way towards breaking through the language barrier. Don’t let a fear of not speaking the language hold you back: just think about it as another part of your experience, and enjoy the ride.

Sooner than you can imagine you will dream in the new language!

Soon enough, you won’t be able to separate your mother tongue from the new language anymore. This effect is even more pronounced when you speak several languages, or learn a few of them at once! It will probably happen that you will want to express a very particular feeling, or thought, but it only comes to you in a different language: it happened to me really frequently finding myself googling words that I knew in English, but can’t quite express in my native language, Italian, for example.

Erasmus traveller is dreaming
Photo by @lindapiphkova

You will build up the confidence to master any challenge

Most importantly, living in a country where you don’t speak the language at all, or even navigating one for a longer trip, will give you the courage and the confidence to face any challenge that you might encounter, language-related or not.

Realizing that you can survive in a place where nobody understands what you are talking about, and realizing that learning new skills can be easier than you might initially think really boosts your morale.

Written by Chiara Zucchetto Giuseppin


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